Kategorie: Books (Seite 2 von 3)

James Rhodes “Der Klang der Wut” – A story like a fairy tale

The truth one might think is something you can’t suppress. But it looked highly unlikely that the book “Instrumental” (“The sound of rage” is it in German – my note) would never make it onto the shelves of the book stores. Not until the British Supreme Court allowed the publication of the book saying that the author is allowed to tell his story. The judges rejected Rhodes’ ex-wife try to prevent not only the publication of the book . She tried to prevent Rhodes from talking about his past publicly.

A different kind of pianist

The author is James Rhodes, a pianist who is exactly the opposite you expect a concert pianist to be. He appears on stage in Jeans, tee and trainers, seems to be hyperactive and calm, witty and serious and has no problem at all to get rid of his black, long sleeve tee with “Bach” written in capital letters on the front (“Sorry, I’m warm, have to get out of that shirt. Be envious, I was at the fitness centre.”). And creating worlds out of music on a very impressive huge and polished Steinway piano, fascinating his audience in London’s Barbican centre last autumn. And then this small, fragile 40 year old British guy who takes off his nerdy glasses when playing thousands of notes out of memory, seems like he has been happily playing this wonderful music, just himself and his piano, for all his life.

But what he is writing in his book – that is now available in German – hasn’t anything to do with classical music, at least not for a start. Without whitewashing anything, Rhodes writes how he was abused by his boxing teacher over the range of five years. Yes, he doesn’t describe all the most devastating details but even without them, the book is shocking, stirring, disturbing and moving. That is because Rhodes writes the same way he communicates on Twitter with his followers or describes his audience why he is playing the piece of music he is playing, what it means to him – and he tells something about the life of the composer.

 “I started writing at 3.47 am. Something is wrong with me.”
(My translation)

Of course “Instrumental” is about classical music, pieces of great composers, even outsiders know their names, even if that sort of music isn’t their cup of tea. This music is more than just a way to earn money. It has saved his life because, Rhodes writes, music comforts him “when there is desperation, music gives pure energy in a very high doses when one feels empty, broken and exhausted.” (My translation). Music that a friend smuggled inside his mental hospital on an iPod where Rhodes tried to commit suicide several times after his marriage broke up and he stopped working in the City.
The fact that he now is married happily to his second wife, writes for British papers, had a show about music on British telly and has his own label – thanks to his manager he met in a café – reads like a fairy tale. Of course the book “Instrumental” isn’t a fairy tale at all even if the story could have come out of the mind of a screenwriter. But he would lack that direct, puzzling tone which comes with the swearing of the original in the German version where the reader is addressed as “Sie” (the polite way to talk to strangers – my note) – and which sounds a bit rough from time to time. The joy of reading is completed by a Spotify playlist of all of the pieces introducing every chapter.

Photo: Petra Breunig

Photo: Petra Breunig

Book & music
James Rhodes: Der Klang der Wut, Nagel & Klimche, 22,90 Euro.  [You can find my review of “Instrumental” here]
James Rhodes offers some of his pieces for free on https://sound-
cloud.com/jrhodespianist
His latest album is „Inside Tracks”.

[The German version of this article was first published in Fränkischer Tag, 10th February 2016 and online  (paid).  This blog entry is my translation and has a few notes to explain specific German expressions]

Shakespeare in the World

William Shakespeare is one of the best known author of plays. And even if one hasn’t read or seen any of them at all, some sentences seem to be familiar, written forever in the memory of mankind. But little is known about the man who was born in Stratford, went to London to write and perform his genius plays, retired to Stratford where he died. We can only imagine that he hat books important for his work, that he had friends to chat with and that he had some belongings dear to his heart. What remained of his life are property transactions, a marriage license bond or christening records.

Stephen Greenblatt gets behind these documents and brings the human being behind the genius  that was William Shakespeare to life. Though Shakespeare imagined worlds while creating his plays, he always was very aware of the real world: “Shakespeare understood his world in the way that we understand our world – his experiences, like ours, were mediated by whatever stories and images were available to him”, Greenblatt writes. Stories he may have read or heard while sitting in a pub, listening and watching the people around him, stories he needed for his plays, hints that are visible in his work as Greenblatt explains his reader.

“How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
seem to me all the uses of the world!” Hamlet, I,2.

But, according to Greenblatt, we find more of Shakespeare’s own feelings and his grief about the death of his boy, the 11 year old Hamnet. Although  it took him a few years (maybe he had to recover from the loss of his boy), Shakespeare managed to “respond with the deepest expression of his being” and gifted the world with “Hamlet” – playing the ghost himself.

“Will in the World” is an entertaining read filled with countless references to Shakespeare’s work but without any educative tone. Those who want to read more get pages of bibliographical notes for further studies.

 

Photo: Petra Breunig

Photo: Petra Breunig

Stephen Greenblatt: Will in the World, Norton, 14£/12€

Bücher meines Jahres

Zum dritten Mal ziehe ich Buch-Bilanz (zum ersten Mal auf meiner eigenen Url) und wie auch schon in den Jahren 2013 und 2014 ist das Ganze wieder zutiefst subjektiv und bar jeglichen feuilletonistischen Anspruchs.

Im Vergleich zum vergangenen Jahr habe ich heuer vier Bücher weniger gelesen, was vielleicht daran liegt, dass ich William Shakespeare’s Hamlet mindestens zweimal ganz und ein paar Stellen mehrfach nachgelesen habe – auf Deutsch und auf Englisch – als Vorbereitung auf den Besuch des Stücks im Londoner Barbican mit Benedict Cumberbatch in der Titelrolle.

Meine Bilanz sieht demnach so aus:

Gesamt: 34
Deutsch: 17
Englisch: 17
Kindle/Tablet: 3. (Mit Tablet meine ich, dass ich die Bücher bei Google gekauft und in der App auf meinem N7 gelesen habe – einfach deshalb, weil eines der Bücher dort früher erhältlich war und weil ich die App sehr schön gemacht finde. Mein Kindle ist ein mittlerweile vier Jahre alter Kindle Keyboard.)

Von den gelesenen empfehle ich diese Bücher:

Ian McEwan
Black Dogs, Atonement, Inbetween the Sheets, On Chesil Beach: IanMcEwan ist einer meiner absoluten Lieblingsschriftsteller, der es schafft, selbst banalste Geschichten spannend und mit völlig überraschenden Wendungen zu erzählen. Auf Deutsch sind seine Werke mit durchwegs sehr guten Übersetzungen bei Diogenes erschienen.

Lukas Hartmann
Auch von Lukas Hartmann habe ich schon einiges gelesen und mag seinen Stil. Heuer waren es “Abschied von Sansibar” (das ich schon mal gelesen habe, aber das Buch nicht mehr finden konnte) und sein neuestes Buch “Auf beiden Seiten”. Eine Geschichte aus der Zeit kurz vor und nach dem Mauerfall. Hartmanns Bücher sind ebenfalls bei Diogenes erschienen, darunter auch Kinder- und Jugendbücher. Eines davon, “AnnA”, hat mir besonders gut gefallen.

Donna Leon
Ich bin bekennender Guido-Brunetti-Fan, daher habe ich alle Fälle des Commissario gelesen. Diese Jahr gab es mit “Tod zwischen den Zeilen” und “Endlich mein” gleich zwei neue Bücher, die wie alle anderen ebenfalls bei Diogenes erschienen sind.

Alan Rusbridger
Der Ex-Chefredakteur des “Guardian” beschreibt in “Play it Again– an amateur against the impossible”  (Deutsch: Play it Again – Ein Jahr zwischen Noten und Nachrichten”, Secession-Verlag) wie er versucht, trotz seiner stressigen Arbeit Zeit fürs Klavierspielen zu finden. Ein sehr privates Buch, das daran erinnert, dass man Zeit für etwas finden kann, wenn man nur will.

James Rhodes
Wer mit klassischer Musik nichts anfangen kann, sollte dem britischen Pianisten James Rhodes eine Chance geben und einer Auswahl seiner Stücke auf Soundcloud anhören. Und sein biografischen Buch “Instrumental: Violence, music and love” lesen – oder zumindest die deutschsprachige Ausgabe “Der Klang der Wut – Wie die Musik mich am leben hielt” (Nagel&Kimche), die im Februar 2016 erscheinen wird, auf seine Leseliste setzen. In dem Buch, das in Großbritannien erst nach einem Gerichtsverfahren erscheinen durfte, schreibt James  über seine Kindheit, in der er über Jahre vergewaltigt wurde, seine Zeit in der Psychiatrie und darüber, das Musik, klassische Musik, sein Leben gerettet hat. Es ist zutiefst erschütternd, gleichzeitig aber auch witzig und sehr direkt geschrieben. Wer James auf Twitter folgt, wird den Stil wiedererkennen.

Sherlock-Holmes-Pastiches
Anthony Horowitz’ “Moriarty” (deutsch: “Der Fall Moriarty”) ist ganz im Stile Arthur Conan Doyles geschrieben. Allerdings hat mir “Das Geheimnis des weißen Bandes” (Beide Insel) besser gefallen.
Nur etwas für echte Sherlock-Holmes-Fans ist “Sherlockian” von Graham Moore.  Der Autor, der das Drehbuch zu “The Imitation Game” geschrieben hat, taucht hier sehr tief in die Welt des großen Detektivs ein. Eine deutsche Ausgabe habe ich bisher nicht gefunden.

Neuentdeckt
Angharad Price: “Das Leben der Rebecca Jones” ist ursprünglich auf Walisisch erschienen und wurde vom Englischen ins Deutsche übersetzt. Ein Glück, denn die Geschichte ist wunderbar erzählt und hat ein völlig überraschendes Ende.
Anthony Doerr: “Alles Licht, das wir nicht sehen” ist eine meisterhaft erzählte Geschichte, die man nicht weglegen möchte und die einem noch lange im Gedächtnis bleibt.
Donna Tartt: “The Secret History” (Deutsch: Die geheime Geschichte, Goldmann) spielt an einem  College in Neuengland, an dem es scheinbar nur um alte Sprachen und Literatur geht. Netter Nebeneffekt: Die Hauptfigur erinnert an Sherlock Holmes.

Zum Immer-Wieder-in-die-Hand-nehmen:
Shaun Usher: Letters of Note II – eine Sammlung von Briefen, die ganz unterschiedliche Menschen zu unterschiedlichen Zeiten geschrieben haben und die zum Teil als Faksimile abgedruckt sind. Der erste Teil “Letters of Note – Bücher, die die Welt bedeuten” ist auch auf Deutsch erschienen. Mehr über die unterschiedlichen Ausgaben des Buchs und über das Projekt “Unbound”, auf dessen Seite man Bücher crowdfunden kann, gibt es hier (auf Englisch).

Prof Alan Turing decoded

What is the point in writing another biography of Alan Turing more than 60 years after his death? And what can be really new when you know Andrew Hodges’ “Enigma” which is both a thrilling approach to the professional life of the man who helped breaking the German Enigma code in the Second World War and an look inside the man who wasn’t allowed to live and love as a homosexual man in the UK of the 50s?

The point is that the author Dermot Turing, is Alan’s nephew and although he has never met his uncle, he takes the reader with “Prof – Alan Turing decoded” inside the Turing family, presenting not only pictures you may not have seen before but also letters and notes scribbled by Alan when thinking about his work (which makes me wonder how his third notebook which was sold at an auction earlier this year may look like. ) Although the book is – as always when it comes to very specific scientific topics – not always an easy read. But even if you don’t have the brain of a mathematician  or a computer expert, you’ll can’t help but to be in awe of a man who apparently was awkward and brilliant as a codebreaker in Bletchley Park and as the father of the computer age, somehow way ahead of his time and down to earth in a stunningly pragmatic way.

“He was a strange character, a very reserved sort, but he mixed in with everyone quite well.”

A way that wasn’t always an easy one to cope with. Imagine Alan at your door at any time of day without any notice to announce his visit or him walking away when he found a conversation boring. But he easily connected with children whom he met on equal levels and talked seriously about such things as if God could catch a cold when he sat on wet grass.

“Prof” is a biography about a man “who had something special which the rest of us do not”. It is worth reading.

 

Dermot Turing: Prof – Alan Turing decoded. A biography. The history press, about 20€/ 16£.

Further reading:
Alan Turing – his work and impact.

Letters of Note II

The moment you free that huge coffee table book from its packings, you feel that is indeed something special. This is of course because of its size (21 x 3,5 x 28,9 cm) but it is also because of its content. As I wrote before when I had the first volume in my hands, “Letters of Note, Volume II” again makes letters available for readers and lure them into a very special place. The place – maybe the living room – is a very private one, normally not open for strangers, a place where letters were written in a time when the internet wasn’t even thought of.

So this book is a treat to dive into, to flick through its pages and get hooked by facsimiles, pictures or the name of the writer or their receivers. You want to have it within reach to hold it and re read certain letters again, so do make room on your shelves. And you’ll get letters by Abraham Lincoln, Aldous Huxley, Janis Joplin, Charlotte Brontë, Michelangelo, Alan Turing, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Florence Nightingale and many more. They tell stories of their writers, give  little insight looks into their lives at a special moment in time and will never leave you untouched.

LettersOfNote2

Photo: Petra Breunig

You will find different editions but even if you love reading ebooks (as I do), do yourself a favour and go for a hardcopy. It’s worth the money.

Unbound is a way of crowdfunding books directly by supporting their authors. Depending on how much money you want to spend, you get goodies and of course the books you are supporting. After signing up for Unbound – which is for free – and you have made up your mind to support a book you want to get to life, you’re getting emails keeping you updated on the progress the book is making.

Shaun Usher, Letters of Note II,  Unbound.

[Note: I was one of the subscribers and am very happy that this book  wouldn’t exist without me, as Shaun Usher wrote.

Donna Tartt: The secret history

What is a good book, a good novel? One that grabs you, draws you inside it’s pages, inside the story and even stays in your mind when you have read the last word.  At least this is what I consider a good book.  And “The secret history” by Donna Tartt is definitely a good novel.

That is because the  story is so well written that once you have read a few pages, you have difficulties putting the book aside and if you have to – you know real life can be very demanding and your boss won’t take “reading” for an excuse – you want to know very badly how the story unfolds. That story takes the reader to Hampden College in New England, together with the narrator Richard Papen who moves all the way from California to study English Literature here.  Soon he discovers that the only thing he really wants to learn is classic languages and attend the classes of Julian Morrow, a teacher who only has few pupils, four boys and a girl. A elitist group which is centred around Henry Winter. Henry is a stranger in modern times together with his intellect, his knowledge about everything and his appearance he seems to be another Sherlock Holmes. A hint that Sherlockians of course will get at the very beginning of the story but which Donna Tartt picks up every now and then.

“(Henry Winter) might have been handsome had his features been less set, or his eyes, behind the glasses, less expressionless and blank. (…) He spoke a number of languages, ancient and modern, and had published a translation of Anacreon, with commentary, when he was only eighteen.”

Richard convinces Julian to take him into his classes and finds himself within a community that while  concentrating on ancient languages lives a life separated from their fellow students, even from modern life itself.

“The secret history” is thrilling, neither boring nor predictable and you will regret deeply when  you have reached the final page.

 

Donna Tartt: The secret history, Penguin £ 8,99.

James Rhodes: Instrumental: Violence, music and love

The thing with autobiographies is they can go totally wrong, trying to convince the reader what a perfect, clever, self-confident and of course perfect looking human being the writer is – and leaving you as the reader either laughing or sick because you can’t cope with a super man (of course there are super woman around, too).

James Rhodes’ “Instrumental”, that is finally available, isn’t that sort of book at all. It is funny, it is shocking, it leaves you shaking your head in disbelief and it touches you deeply. That is because – and for me the most important thing – James writes about his life, his experiences and the things that matter most to him in such an open, honest way as if he is talking to you as a very close friend. Being able to literally write about grief, sorrow, shame, feeling insecure and simply not fit for the world outside is a kind of getting rid of it. No matter how people will react.

“I started writing this at 3.47 am. There is something wrong with me.”

And people will react, they always do. Especially in a time when they can throw their rubbish onto the internet and straight into James’ Twitter and Facebook (He’s on Google+, too but unfortunately doesn’t keep that account alive). And especially when it comes to abusing children or as James names it: rape. The fact that he was raped, humiliated and tormented by a school teacher when he was a boy, is not only disgusting, may turn your stomach and makes you cry when reading about it (so this book is not a book for children or people unable to cope with violence). It is also unbelievable for people who never experienced violence in their lives. But this is the truth and it is a miracle that this boy now a man of 38 hasn’t committed suicide, is able to speak out – not only with this book but also in various articles and on Twitter – and is desperately trying to bring classical music to a broader audience. From the moment a friend gave him an iPod, smuggled into the hospital James was living because he had tried to kill himself frequently – together with his destroyed self confidence, the feeling that everything that has happened was his fault was result of the raping experienced as a boy – James knew and still knows that classical music can make a difference: “Anything changed.” The Bach-Marcello Adagio “took me to a place of such magnificience, such surrender, hope, beauty, infinite space, it was like touching God’s face.”

“I would not exist (…) without music.”

And because music is so important to him and because he is as different from a “normal” pianist – sitting in tee, jeans and trainers at the piano – as you possibly can imagine, it’s thrilling to listen to his work, to his explanations about the composer or watching him on telly or on Youtube. Or simply finding out that classical music isn’t something for an elite audience but for normal people who are not able to remember the name of the composer but just like or dislike a special piece of music. No wonder that he tries to catch people whereever he can, engaging with his fans on Twitter and on Facebook, offering free music on his soundcloud and promoting his book. A book that is worth every hour reading it.

Screenshot: Petra Breunig

Screenshot: Petra Breunig

Every chapter has an introduction about a special piece of music. There is a play list on Spotify

James Rhodes: Instrumental, Canongate, £16,99.
As ebook on Amazon, iTunes and Google Play Books.

And interview with James Rhodes can be found here.

My dear Bessie

In times when everybody had a pen and pencil and using a computer or chatting online seemed unthinkable or only possible in the mind of some people living way ahead of their time or writing science fiction, letters were the only way to stay in touch with the people your care about. Letters which took days or weeks to reach their recipient, especially during the Second World War, when people struggled to find out if their relatives or loved ones were okay.

“I could hug you till you dropped!”
Chris to Bessie, 21 February 1944

The letters in “My dear Bessie” compiled by Simon Garfield tell a love story no author could possible imagine in a more touching way that never gets kitschy. A love story which unfolds between Chris Barker and Bessie Moore only because Chris, who stationed at the Libyan coast, decided to write a letter to Bessie who worked at the Post office and attended the same training course as Chris. During the war, Bessie worked as a morse interpreter and despite the fact that she was dating another man (till the relationship ended), kept up the correspondence with Chris – a very platonic one.

“I just had to give you all I could in the only way possible, and I did it because all of me responded to you with a force that I wasn’t aware of possessing. (…) You are as precious to me as life itself, for it goes on and on.”
Bessie to Chris, 14 December 1944

Chris’ letter from September 1943 changed not only their way of writing but in the end their whole lives. As time went by, they wrote more and more letters of which 500 survived. The book contains the most heartwarming ones as Simon Garfield writes in his introduction. Together with the afterword by Bernard Baker, their son, and Irena Barker, their granddaughter, the wonderful letters are understandable within their historical context and tell the whole story of this love of a lifetime.

MyDearBessie

Simon Garfield: My dear Bessie, Canongate Books, about 7 £.

Alan Turing – His work and impact

If you stumbled across Alan Turing because of the film “The Imitation Game” starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role, you may be aware of Andrew Hodges’ biography “The Enigma” – the basis of Graham Moore’s Oscar awarded screenplay.

A much deeper inside look at Alan Turing’s work which helped breaking the German enigma code, shortened the Second World War by at least two years and saved millions of lives, you should read the huge book “Alan Turing – His work and impact” by S. Barry Cooper and Jan van Leewen. Yes, there are lots of mathematical theories, even formulas (something very awful for people like me unable to cope with numbers) but the more than 870 pages, accompanied by indexes and bibliographies are worth reading, browsing through essays about and from Alan.

“He was a genius: he was ‘a wonder of the world’.
Bernards Richards about Alan Turing

One essay that strikes me most  – besides the ones by Alan himself which offer a look inside the brain of a man a colleague described as “a Wonder of the world” – is the piece “Why Turing cracked the Enigma code and the Germans did not” by Klaus Schmeh. The German computer scientist explains that Germans were unable to bring their cryptographers together to find a possible weakness in the Enigma code itself. Despite the fact that German experts were aware of a possible breach, Britain’s success in breaking Enigma was only revealed in the 1970s when details about the codebreaker’s work at Bletchley Park became public.

“Alan Turing – His work and impact” may not be an easy read. But it is worth every try.

S.Barry Cooper, Jan van Leeuwen: Alan Turing – His work an impact, Elsevier, £ 53 can be ordered here.

Foto: pb

Foto: pb


Sherlock Holmes and London

Given the fact that Sherlock Holmes is one of best known fictional character not only in Britain where he is of course part of the national heritage but worldwide, it is not astonishing that there are whole libraries filled with all sort of books about the only consulting detective and probably the most famous detective of all times. So you have to look very carefully on any new one, if you don’t want to be disappointed.

The book cover Foto: pb

The book cover Foto: pb

“The man who never lived and who will never die” isn’t just another book about Sherlock Holmes. Although it is accompanying the exhibition in the Museum of London which is still open till April 12th 2015, it totally stands on its own feet. Alex Werner who compiled the book, throws a very different light on Arthur Conan Doyle’s figure, setting him in his surroundings while explaing that he only can exist within London. The city as some critics say is besides Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson the third main figure in all of the original stories.

It has often been claimes that there are three principal characters in the Holmes and Watson stories: the great detective, the good doctor and the ever-present metropolis, and up to a point (…) this is true. (…) Yet London was not where Holmes started out, for his background was rural and gentrified.

And so the book pays tribute to that fact by showing lots of historic pictures of London while explaining the historical background not only of the original Conan canon but of all adaptions throughout the years – no  matter if you are watching a film situated in Victorian or contemporary London.

The articles are well written and stuffed with all information a Sherlock Holmes fan needs to know. And he will also need this book which will be a treat long after the exhibition is gone.

Alex Werner, Sherlock Holmes – The man who never lived and will never die, Ebury Press, about 20£/ 20€.

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